(My Working Will Be the Work) Maintenance Art and the Messianic (Mierle Laderman Ukeles)

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As it turns out, Jewish ritual, the idea of the holy, informs much of this artist’s work and her thought. They cut against the grain of “messianism” in ways that are at once profound and ordinary. My introduction to her work as somewhat happenstance. Vetting a manuscript on contemporary Jewish art and conceptualism, I stumbled upon a reference to Mierle Laderman Ukeles and her “Maintenance Art Manifesto.” I found it immediately useful as a model for work in Jewish aesthetic thought and philosophical Talmud. Some months later, the Queens Museum put on a retrospective of her work. Ukeles was a pioneer in 1970s feminist art. Her particular hiddush (innovation) was to turn the drudgery of a married women’s domestic work into the labor of art. As conceptualist art, the work cannot be understood apart from the concept that builds it. You can read the full version of her Maintenance Art…

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